The term ‘Heroin Chic’ has been used for decades to describe women’s bodies, particularly those who are exceptionally tall and skinny. Heroin chic was a body type that was often glorified in the 1990s, with pale skin, dark under eyes, and emaciated features, a look that was often achieved by models who put themselves through eating disorders and addiction issues. While we have advanced as a society in many ways since the 90s apparently our narrative around women’s bodies hasn’t changed at all. We still feel like we can put arbitrary labels on women and liken them to people who have serious addiction issues. Not only minimizing women in every single way but also glorifying an issue as serious as heroin addiction, this demonstrates our nihilistic approach to women’s beauty and the media’s inability to comprehend that being a woman with a body that moves, dances and lives is not a trend and certainly cannot be compared to a dangerous addiction.
While the ideas behind heroin chic were created and perpetuated by supermodels in the 1990s who supported a toxic diet culture and drug abuse that lead to extreme weight loss, it’s unfair to place the blame for this beauty standard and its popularity on these women. It isn’t the 19 or 23-year-old supermodel who created a patriarchal society that tells women that how they feel and how healthy they are will never be more important than how they look. It wasn’t these women that created such a toxic beauty industry that anorexia was expected rather than discouraged. It is too easy for magazines, newspapers, and even other celebrities to point their accusing fingers at the Kardashians or other famous women that promote unrealistic beauty standards but as crazy as it sounds it isn’t their fault either.
This unhealthy obsession we as a society have with women’s appearances has led to the creation of arbitrary labels, such as heroin chic, slim thick, and boxy. Perhaps if we accept that just like men, female bodies are unique at every stretch mark, blemish, bruise, and curve then maybe women could learn how to accept that their beauty lies in their individuality. The continued support and attention to individuals and companies who clearly objectify and demean women is the inherent problem we as a society face. The need to conform, to feel as though we fit into this impossible and unhealthy beauty standard is not the result of Kim Kardashian’s dramatic 16-pound weight loss, it is the direct product of everyday people believing that these insane labels still have a place within our society. We can preach body positivity and learn to love ourselves for years but we cannot continue to accuse famous women of being villains in a story that has only ever written them as victims.
It is about time that we understand that the real enemy is not an Instagram model that edits her photos, but rather the media outlets that take unedited photos and point out every flaw she has tried so desperately to hide. The root of the problem doesn’t lie in heroin chic supermodels, but it lies within ourselves, as we continue to support organizations that continue to bring women down. And it’s time to change that.